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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mexican breakfasts come back to haunt Ricky Hatton

Even before Ricky Hatton's fight started, the villain of the piece had been identified by Sky's pundits. Step forward Hatton's trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr, roundly condemned by former boxers Johnny Nelson and Nicky Piper for his less than serious demeanour in the run-up to the fight and for the cardinal sin of constantly turning up late for training.

I must say I had already formed the view that the trainer's judgment was open to serious question, watching the preview documentary Sky screened plugging its Box Office coverage. In it, we see footage of Mayweather driving to work – late again – stopping at one of those quasi-Mexican drive-through places to pick up some breakfast/lunch.

He chooses Number 8, which I should have counselled against. It appeared to be three crisp taco shells filled with something pretending to be meat, lots of that gloop that makes cheap Mexican food the bowel-opening crime against humanity that it is, with a cheese-style substance melted on top of the whole disaster. Not only did the trainer make this ill-advised choice – filled taco shells remain Mexico's most toxic export despite anything you might read elsewhere in this newspaper – but he spent rather too long discussing what exactly might be in his meal.

"Has it got, like, tomatoes in it?" Mayweather mumbled into that voice-distorting microphone these places always have, wasting valuable time that might have been better spent explaining to Ricky that Pacquiao was a southpaw. I mean, any man who can live 57 years in the United States and still has to ask what is about to go into his crisp taco shells has clearly not been paying attention.

And then – horror of horrors – Mayweather proceeded to eat the catastrophe while driving his big posh car – a Mercedes or something, I'm not an expert – to the gym where his affable charge patiently waited.

The most junior travelling salesman could have told him that Mexican is not good driving food. Quite apart from the smell – which, in fairness, you could easily clear by driving four or five thousand miles with all the windows open – and the grease on the steering wheel, there is the ever-present danger of spillage.

When I used to drive around a lot – before taking on the sport-on-TV gig, which is the journalistic equivalent of house arrest – the meal-at-the-wheel was one of my most important choices of the day.

A simple yet sustaining sandwich was what I sought. However tempting the deep-fill might look, I resisted it. Certainly, any sandwich containing tomatoes was to be viewed with deep suspicion, because those tomato seeds will fly out of your snack and zero in on a freshly laundered white shirt like a heat-seeking missile. And I made a particular point of slinging a deaf 'un to the honeyed words of the Ginsters people. Pies and pasties will crumble, and as you brush the pastry from your clothing, you may find some of the filling has sneaked out; and gravy smeared on a navy blue suit is never considered an especially good look.

I could not imagine Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's quieter, more serious- looking trainer, making such elementary food-choice errors.

Roach was a telemarketer before taking up training, calling himself Joe Davies and selling pens and mugs, quite successfully apparently. You could never imagine Mayweather Sr being self-effacing enough to change his name and sell stuff over the phone.

And there is another thing. I am not entirely comfortable with the Sr tag. It always says to me that the father has somehow been eclipsed by the son, as in George Formby or Frank Lampard Sr – fine overlapping full-back though he was, with a famously famous left foot. Where the father is the real deal, like Frank Sinatra or Hank Williams, it is the son who has to carry round the Jr tag.

But what, I hear you asking, of the fight? Well, for those of you unable or unwilling to stump up the fifteen quid to watch, what I am trying to do is give you some idea of the balance of Sky's coverage. It began at 10pm, and lasted for 480 minutes, of which less than six were taken up with the fight. Take away the two minutes I spent with my eyes averted from the punishment meted out to my fellow Mancunian, and you will know why the brutal business is relegated to these few words.

Amid all the analysis, the night was best summed up by Hatton's girlfriend Jennifer, who looked as nervous as a kitten before the fight, and ten seconds before the end of round two, put her hands to her face and let out a piercing scream.


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